Recipe: Teochew Fish Soup. And a sneak peek at Our Little Nook.

It always stirs up a sense of melancholy in me whenever Florian and I pack up for a move. I see our lives packed into boxes and it makes me think about how, in a matter of say, 20-ish boxes, we can squeeze all our possessions. And in a funny way, I imagine throwing all these boxes out and wondering how much of what’s in them I will miss. Probably only a mere 10% of things. Maybe even less.

I won’t lie, I’ve left behind a huge pile of clothes, jewellery and random knick-knacks at Mum and Dad’s place that I will need to go through, throw out, give away, or recycle at some point (soon, I promise). This is our third move in 4 years and most likely, we won’t be having to move for another decade or so.

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Some sneaks into our new home. I couldn’t help but start to unpack the kitchen boxes as soon as the movers had left. And so, our first weekend, Florian and I pretty much finished unpacking about 80% of the boxes. Some of the items had been stowed away the last 9 months while we were with Mum and Dad that opening them up was like playing ‘Pass the Parcel’. Only, I was the one happily unwrapping all of them and surprising myself with what lay beneath all the paper/bubble wrap.

Our sweet neighbour (living next to Mum and Dad) got wind of our moving and gave us this bouquet. She got us two actually so the other one sits just outside our front door, attempting very hard to make our home look more welcoming. Thank God she got us cloth flowers because real ones die on me a lot earlier than they should. The good Lord knows I’ve tried very hard to keep many of our plants alive but to no avail. I’ve since told Florian that we will not be keeping any live plants in our home for the simple fact that I cannot bear to have any more die on me.

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Our console arrived! And I love this shade of navy that I was quite adamant about having. Florian initially worried it would be too strong a colour but our living/dining area is nice and bright so this feature wall provides a nice contrast to the rest of the light genteel grey walls – yup! According to Nippon paint, our walls are Genteel.

We may or may not keep the lamp and the bird cage will be shifted somewhere else – perhaps to the balcony if we can have a lightbulb fit inside. We’re thinking of having a hammock on our little balcony where we have a cute red table inherited from the previous owners. We also have astroturf there so we’ll try and create some garden vibes there.

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We still need to get a door mat so for now, we have this rattan mother-child chair which I love! When we were little, my close cousins and I would sit in this chair at our grandfather’s home to eat. This side up, and it’s for adults to sit but if you flip it over, it’s like a baby/toddler chair.

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I also finally, finally got around to doing my hair at a cute hair salon called Salon 5, a couple hundred metres away from our place. My hair looks way healthier and more alive now. For how many days will this last? I don’t know. My hair got balayaged and coloured so there’s some ashy-grey tones around that’s not too obvious but there. Also, my hair is not usually wavy like this. I always leave the salon with great hair that disappears within a half hour. Sandy, the stylist attending to me, said I have A LOT of hair but it’s very fine so it doesn’t hold texture so well.

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I met up with Les for lunch on Wednesday too. Last I saw her it was still March! Mayyyyybe beginning April. I love our heart-to-heart sessions and I miss our time in Bangkok last year where we had an entire day together before the boys joined us, simply talking, or not talking. I think that’s the beauty of a strong friendship – the non-existence of awkward silences. And Les really is more than just a friend. She’s really, truly, someone I regard as a sister. ❤ Super blessed to have her.

And a bonus that she loves good food too! We lunched at Merci Marcel, Orchard. Love the ambience of the place although it actually felt like we were in some European country instead of Asia with most diners there being y’know, fair haired. We sat al fresco and it was perfect seeing that the weather yesterday was quite cool.

We shared two dishes. The first was this Roasted whole eggplant with puy lentils, tomato preserve, pine nuts and farm yogurt. This was delightful. I enjoyed the meatiness of the lentils and the sweet tartness from the tomatoes.  There was also some finely minced black olives that added a subtle bitter brininess. I realise I’m not too much a fan of pine nuts. There’s styrofoamy taste to them that I don’t quite like. I’ll definitely try to make this at home using cashews or pistachios instead.

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The other item we shared was Smoked haddock with mixed cabbage, marinated raisins and raspberry vinegar. I can never refuse smoked fish and this was wonderfully smoky with a bit more bite and texture compared to salmon. The pile of mixed cabbage had crunch, and married sweet and tangy nicely together. It reminded me very much of Florian’s krautsalat but with an additional touch of sweetness since Florian’s rendition uses white wine vinegar instead of fruit vinegar.

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There were round discs of perfectly cooked potatoes as well underneath all the cabbage, providing earthiness that rounded the stronger flavours of all the other components.

After lunch, we took a walk over to Somerset’s Design Centre where Les had a cuppa at Alchemist. It was a little late for me to dare ingest any caffeine so I skipped but the staff very thoughtfully provided water for us.

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Had an appointment at 4pm and Les had to scoot home to get some emails sent so we had to cut our date short. I said we have to do it on a weekend next time so we’ll be able to hang out from morning until night. Then again, weekend’s are also a lot more crowded out.

While we’re in Phase 2 of the post-CB measures, I’m still trying to stay home and stay safe as much as possible. So yes, I’m still cooking at home although not with the same intense fervour as at the start of the circuit breaker. Last week, I finally ticked off the box next to ‘Teochew fish soup’ that I’d been wanting to try. It’s still not quite like how Mama used to make it but it was deliciously comforting in its own way.

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Teochew Fish Soup (Serves 4)

1 whole fish head (I used 2 halves of the batang fish head)
2 chicken feet (optional)
5 slices ginger
1 handful dried ikan bilis (or 2 pcs dried solefish) 
500ml homemade chicken stock 
1.5l water

1/4 head Chinese cabbage, roughly chopped
1 stalk Chinese leek, sliced
2 Tomatoes, quartered
3 pcs salted plum
Pickled Mustard, rinsed and roughly chopped. I put about… 30-40 g?

1/2 Tbsp rock sugar
3 Tbsp hua diao jiu (Chinese wine)
Salt to taste

350g sliced batang, lightly seasoned with white pepper and soy sauce or salt.

To garnish: 
Fresh coriander
Fried shallots
Cut chilli in soy sauce

  1. Heat pot with some oil and fry fish head with ginger. 
  2. Add chicken feet, dried ikan bills and a pinch of salt. Add chicken stock and water. Bring to the boil and then lower heat. Simmer 1.5-2 hrs. Strain into a clean pot. 
  3. Add cabbage, leek, tomatoes, salted plum and pickled mustard into the pot. Bring to the boil for about 5-10 min then add rock sugar and hua diao jiu. Adjust seasonings to taste. 
  4. Add sliced fish. Once fish is cooked, remove into serving bowls and top with soup and vegetables. Garnish and serve.

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I am always hesitant about drinking anything soupy when dining out because we really never know just how much salt or MSG they use. This bowl was completely cleaned out and then some. Sure, it’s convenient and probably cheaper to eat out when cooking for one or two people, but I’d happily make this and eat it for lunch and dinner over two days because it’s like a warm hug especially on rainy days. Of course, I’d recommend saving the soup and then adding fresh fish slices to cook when you reboil the soup to consume again.

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